Nebraska’s New Alternative Uniform

When UCLA (an adidas school) released a new uniform yesterday, I got a hunch that we could see something different from Nebraska for their September 14 game against the Bruins.

Today, Nebraska and adidas revealed the alternate uniforms the Huskers will wear.  The set has some minor tweaks to the iconic helmet (a large black stripe instead of the thinner red stripe, a matte finish, and a facemask that transitions from red to black) although the classic sans-serif “N” remains untouched.  The biggest change is a black jersey instead of the usual red.  (A full slide show can be seen here.)

So what do I think?

I don’t like them.

Yes, I am an unabashed old-school fuddy-duddy who thinks Nebraska’s uniforms are fine as they are, thank you very much.  But there is more to my dislike of these jerseys than me being averse to change.  My biggest objection is the black jersey, for two primary reasons:

  1. Only the defense – Nebraska’s storied “Blackshirts” – should wear black jerseys.  Period.  Considering that Nebraska, under Bo Pelini, has not handed out the Blackshirts until the middle of the season, does it really make sense that some third string wide receiver gets to wear a black jersey before Ciante Evans and the rest of the defense?  What in the name of Charlie McBride is going on here?
  2. After the defense’s disastrous performance against UCLA in 2012 (36 points allowed, 653 yards of total offense, with over 300 rushing and passing) black is the last color Nebraska should be wearing against the Bruins.

But I understand why this is happening, and why it will continue to happen.  Recruiting top talent is very important, and today’s kids like wearing cool uniforms like Oregon and dozens of other schools are wearing.*  Black will always be a cool color for young males, as it denotes toughness and strength.  Additionally, Nebraska makes nice money from their contract with adidas as well as the sales of replica jerseys and shirts.  From an operational standpoint, doing an alternative uniform is as close to a no-brainer as you can get.

*A side question:  At what point does the novelty of teams wearing alternate uniforms go away for kids?  I would guess that a quarter (if not more) of all D-1 schools have a mix-and-match “uniform system” with thousands of potential combinations.  Beyond that, many more schools (including staunch traditionalists like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Nebraska) have dabbled in alternative jerseys or helmets.  When does the “wow” factor switch to “ho-hum”?

My secondary complaint about these uniforms is a repeat of a complaint from last year:  instead of Nebraska receiving a unique, special, and symbolically relevant design they get a cut and paste mockup from this year’s adidas template.  I continue to find it offensive that Nebraska’s athletic apparel partner (who just signed a new contract with the university this year) thinks so little of one of their flagship schools that they cannot create something unique for them; something that no other school wears.

Adidas – if you want to use a high profile Nebraska game to market your super fancy, inter-galactic space polymer uniforms, go all out.  Show the nation that you have talented designers who can create multiple looks, instead of some guy who makes subtle tweaks to a generic template.

A few other thoughts on these uniforms:

  • I don’t care for the vertical split in the numerals.  It makes me think of the uniforms a prison team would wear.  Despite the mostly clean records of Bo Pelini’s players, Nebraska is still living down the off-field crimes of a few former players.
  • What is the pattern on the shoulders?  A first glance, it reminded me of a Bear Bryant houndstooth.  What adidas should have done was used the outline of the state as their pattern, but that would have required doing something unique and outside of the approved template, so I can see why they didn’t.
  • Just to show you that I’m not entirely negative on these:  I love that I’ll be able to read the numbers from row 47.  That was a major short coming of last year’s set.
  • Nebraska’s new athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, really owes Tom Osborne.  Instead of being the guy who trots out the first alternative football uniforms (and likely earned Steve Pedersen-esque ire from the fans) he is simply following a precedent that T.O. set last year.
  • As if you needed further proof that I’m old – I watched the introductory video and my main thought was “Just hold still so I can see the damn things”.

Overall, my feelings are about the same as they were last year:  They could have been a lot better, but they definitely could have been much worse.  In the end, my feelings about them will likely be swayed by how Nebraska plays in the UCLA game.  Win and I’ll probably like them a little more.  Lose and my dislike will only grow.

It’s Gotta Be The Shoes

Within Husker circles, there is buzz going around about the latest adidas viral video, which teases the adizero Smoke shoes Nebraska will wear for their game this weekend against Wisconsin.

I guess I’m not surprised that NU will have fancy, schmancy new shoes for this game.  As any father of a little girl knows, you simply must have new shoes to wear with a fancy outfit – even if they are outrageously silly and are only worn once..  Since I’ve shared my thoughts on the alternate uniforms Nebraska will wear*, I’ll save you a recap of my feelings on adidas’s homage to Texas Tech.

*But, if you are so included, feel free to get up to speed on my opinions of the alts by clicking here, here, and here.

The video does a decent job of generating interest – at least for those of us who are moderately obsessive about Nebraska, uniforms, or fancy shoes*

*Writing about such broad and popular topics, it is a wonder that my readership isn’t in the millions.

The central tease of the video is about something magically wonderful that happens when you take a picture of these shoes.  What, exactly, happens?  Excellent question.  Adidas and the Nebraska athletic department aren’t saying anything now, so we are left to speculate.  And since wild speculation is the hallmark of the fan blogger, I’ll gladly dive in.  Here are my thoughts on what happens:

  • A chip in the shoe automatically converts the cell phone picture to an faux-retro Instagram photo of these shoes.
  • Tiny speakers in the shoe play Run DMC’s “My Adidas” with each picture.
  • They light up like your 3-year-old nephew’s shoes.
  • They light up like that Honda Civic that cruises Main Street.
  • A smoke machine embedded in the heel activates, turning the game into this.
  • A hologram of Bob Devaney appears over Memorial Stadium.
  • A video of Nike CEO Phil Knight getting kicked in the groin is shown on the HuskerVision screens. (sorry, no link for that one)
  • Something rather boring like the three adidas stripes appearing in a reflective material.

Whatever it is, I’m sure it is going to be amazingly awesome and earth-shatteringly cool, but I do have one question:

For it to work, will I need to have my cell phone camera three feet from the shoes when I take the picture?  Because that could cause a problem from my seat in Row 47.

Even More About Nebraska’s Alternate Uniform

Yesterday, adidas revealed the alternate uniforms that Wisconsin will wear in the September 29 game against Nebraska.  You can see Wisconsin’s new threads here.

Look familiar?

They look an awful lot like the alternate uniforms that Nebraska will wear in that same game.  (Click here for my thoughts on the Nebraska uniforms).

Before I enter into Rant Mode, I’ll say that overall I don’t hate Wisconsin’s version – although I think they should have made them look a little more like the letter sweater that Bucky Badger wears.  It’s a nice futuristic throwback (huh?) look.  Heck, I’ll be honest:  if I turned on a game and saw Wisconsin wearing these, I’d probably say they were cool.

But I hate them.

Why?  Because they came from the same template that produced Nebraska’s alternate uniforms.  Here is an in-depth look at the exhaustive design process used to create the Wisconsin alternates:

  1. Open up the Uni-Maker Pro software
  2. Pull up the 2012_TechFit_Master template file
  3. Delete the sans-serif “N” and type in a sans-serif “W”.  Increase helmet font size by 50%
  4. Uncheck the Home box and check the Away box.
  5. Toggle the color palate from Nebraska to Wisconsin
  6. Click Save
  7. Email the file over to Marketing and CC the factory in Indonesia.

I hate that the NU-UW game – which should be a battle between two of the Big Ten’s premier teams – is reduced to a primetime commercial for adidas to peddle their gear and show that they can crank out cutting edge uniforms like Nike.  I hate that this game not only has a name (“Unrivaled Game”) but also a slogan (“The Quick and the Red”).  I, like others, will be calling this game what it truly is:  The adidas Bowl.

I hate that adidas seemingly cares so little about Nebraska (and Wisconsin) as flagship wearers of the adidas brand that they do not warrant their own unique designs.  While I probably should take that as a sign of how much Nebraska’s national prestige has fallen since 2001, I still take it as a slap in the face from the university’s official apparel provider.  Besides, look at Wisconsin:  two Rose Bowls in the last three years and they have to wear the same uniforms as a team who hasn’t won their conference since 1999.

And I can only chuckle at the biggest irony in this whole thing.  As most college fan know, the traditional uniforms worn by Nebraska and Wisconsin are very similar.  So similar that many fans have a hard time telling them apart when they play (Quick tip:  Nebraska has one helmet stripe, Wisconsin has two).  But thanks to adidas, this year’s game is going to look more like an intra-squad scrimmage than a match up of two traditional powers.  And that is just stupid.

Adidas – you can do better.

Nebraska’s Alternate Uniforms – Reviewed

Today was a day that I have been anticipating and dreading.  Nebraska’s alternate uniform, to be worn a 2012 home game, was revealed today*.

*Funny story – It sounds like Nebraska and adidas wanted to unveil the jerseys next Friday at Nebraska’s annual Fan Day (which makes perfect sense – get a thousand rabid fans on campus, show them something new and shiny, and casually mention that it is for sale at the Huskers Authentic shop across from the stadium.  Brilliant). 

One problem:  the fancy YouTube video adidas created showing off the new duds went online one Friday early.  Somewhere at adidas HQ, an intern is packing up his things.

My reaction:  The uniforms could have been better.  But they could have been much worse.

As you may recall, I’m on record as understanding why Nebraska (poked and prodded by adidas) would sign on for an alternate uniform, while hoping the new design didn’t turn out to be “stupid, ugly – or both”.

If you are one of the 14 Nebraska residents yet to see what the uniforms look like, you can check out pictures and the aforementioned video here:

*   *   *

Allow me to put on my Fashion Policeman’s badge and give these things a head to toe critique:

Helmet – I figured the helmet would be black, but I think simply replacing the white for black is taking the easy way out.  I’m a little surprised that my traditionalist fingers are going to type this, but I wish they would have done more here, possibly making the “N” larger or utilizing helmet numbers on the sides.  But as long as they didn’t put a bunch of glitter on the helmet, I’m happy.  Grade:  C

Jersey – I like the big “N” on the front, as it looks like a football sweater from the 1930’s.  I’d like to have seen the “N” in white with a black border (instead of black with white border), but I guess I should be happy that the whole team will not be wearing Blackshirts.  The teeny-tiny numeral on the chest is interesting.  From a stylistic perspective, I like it.  As a fan in the 47th row of the end zone, it will likely be a real pain in the ass to know who’s who off of that tiny number when NU is on the opposite 20 yard line coming my direction.  I’m assuming the actual jerseys will have the players’ names on the back instead of “Huskers”.  If not, knock this grade down by a minus.  Grade:  B

Pants – Red on red?  Surely somebody at NU told adidas about the 1986 OU game and the resulting fan paranoia over all-red.  As much as black is NOT a Nebraska school color, black pants would have looked better with the jersey and helmet.  Depending on your frame of reference, the lack of a belt makes the whole thing look like a singlet (wrestler), leotard (ballet dancer), 70’s jump suit (Three’s Company fan), or a onesie (parent of a small child).   Grade:  C

Accessories – The video makes a big deal out of the gloves which show the Nebraska sans-serif “N” on each palm.  Given the challenges many NU receivers have had with catching passes in recent years, I think the palms should have a “Y” on them as a subliminal reinforcement to catch the ball.  I know that putting neat-o designs on gloves is all the rage, but these things are a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty waiting to happen.  Also, the video shows some thinly striped red and black socks, which are…um…interesting.  I’m guessing they’ll look decent on a receiver or defensive back and absolutely ridiculous on an offensive lineman (“Daddy, why is that 300 pound tackle wearing dress socks?”).  Grade:  C-

*   *   *

Before I give the uniforms an overall grade, I’d like to share some of the feedback I’ve seen from different local and national voices:

  • Paul Lukas of and the Uni-Watch blog says adidas borrowed the large “N” on the chest idea from the Domino’s Pizza Noid character from their old ads.
  • On Twitter, “Fake Dan Beebe” (@DanBeebe) thinks the “N” on the chest was inspired by a different source.
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel (@TomShatelOWH) tweeted:  “Looking forward to the Big 10 opener in Lincoln, when Texas Tech will play Wisconsin.”
  • Finally, Nebraska’s senior I-Back Rex Burkhead said he loved them and wishes NU could wear them more than once (per the OWH’s Sam McKeown).  Burkhead said the uniforms were “Really cool”.

The Burkhead reaction is a big part of why NU is doing this.  Nebraska fans (even the stodgy traditionalists like me) understand that we need more Burkheads to compete in the Big Ten.  If tolerating an alternate jersey for a game helps Nebraska land some talented recruits, then so be it.

*   *   *

Overall – For me, this is a good reminder of why expectation setting is important.  I expected to hate the alternative uniforms, to find them too futuristic, and too detatched from the tradition-rich history of Nebraska Football.  Instead, we got a modern-looking uniform that both resembles the current look and has a throwback feel with the large “N” on the chest.  I reserve final judgement* until I see them in person, but for now let’s pencil in an overall grade of B-.

*Who am I kidding?  I, and every other Husker fan, will ultimately judge these uniforms on how well Nebraska plays against Wisconsin on September 29.  If NU wins, the opinion will go way up.  In 2002 Nebraska wore some hideously ugly uniforms with a big red side panel.  But had NU won the conference (instead of finishing 7-7) we’d probably still have those uniforms today.  If NU loses to Wisconsin (or repeats their dud of a performance in last year’s game), these uniforms will be an ridiculued footnote in Nebraska lore.

(Update:  8/7/2012 – Adidas has released the Wisconsin version, which has inspired some new hatred from me:

Uniform Changes

On Monday, word came out that Nebraska, with Tom Osborne’s blessing, will wear an alternative football uniform for a 2012 home game.  For those outside of Nebraska, or unfamiliar with the Holy Church of Nebraska Football, let me put this in relative terms.  This announcement is similar to the New York Yankees announcing that they’re removing the pinstripes, Notre Dame changing their helmets to silver, or Apple replacing their logo with an image of a pear.  It has been a big topic in the newspapers, radio shows, and message boards.

While Osborne has said the uniforms will be “futuristic”, but not “outlandish”, there is still much consternation over the changes from the traditionalist fans.  Meanwhile, many fans are excited that Nebraska will be keeping pace with the dozens of schools who wear new or alternate uniforms every year.

I’m torn on this.  I understand all of the reasons why Nebraska should do it.

  • Money.  The dozens of Nebraska apparel shops would love to sell fans a new jersey every year.  Adidas and the Nebraska athletic department would also love it too.  But since the look of the NU jersey doesn’t change that drastically, many fans will only get a new one for a favorite player (some of the 1990s Tommie Frazier jerseys are finally being retired for Ndomukong Suh or Rex Burkhead jerseys), or to own a cool alternate jersey.  At $60 for a replica jersey, an alternate uniform is almost definitely a money-maker for Adidas and NU.
  • Recruiting.  College football is becoming a fashion show as teams (led by Oregon) wear sleek, futuristic uniforms that look like they came from a video game.  Part of recruiting the next wave of talented players to your school is getting them excited about how cool they’ll look in your school’s uniform(s).  As Paul Lukas of the Uni-Watch blog says, “The current trends in college football uni design basically boil down to the fact that 17-year-olds respond to shiny objects”.  If you are not shiny, you risk being ignored for somebody who is shiny.  Given the hyper attention paid to gaining every possible recruiting advantage (in a cold weather state hundreds of miles from beaches, mountains, or big cities) getting on the uniform bandwagon seems logical.
  • Change is (nearly) constant.  Most of the time it is pretty subtle, but the uniforms have actually changed quite a bit over the years – a stripe here, a patch there, etc.  And that doesn’t even include the fashion debacle that was the 2002 uniforms (ugh).  In the past, NU has had numbers on their helmets or an “NU”; they had the Kansas basketball style numerals, and dozens of different cuts and fabrics.  There are some definite differences between today’s uniforms and what was worn in 1983, or even 1997.  See for yourself:  What I’m saying is if a “futuristic” alternative looks like an evolution of the current design, then it might not be that bad.
  • It’s just one game.  Even on the Great Plains, we still worry about slippery slopes.  There is a definite fear that Nebraska will become a midwestern version of Oregon, never wearing the same jersey combination twice.  I think that fear is a little overblown, but I do still worry about getting too far away from tradition, and fostering the idea that the team should wear the new unis full-time because they played great and beat a Top 10 team while wearing them.
  • The players want them.  Reaction from the current players has been overwhelmingly positive.  Noting the Paul Lukas quote above, I think the attraction to “shiny things” extends to kids in their early 20s too, so I’m not all that surprised by this.  Kids want to keep up with their peers, and if their peers are wearing the latest Nike Pro Combat uniforms, then that is what they want too.
  • If T.O. approves, how bad can it be?  I don’t mean that quite as sarcastically as it comes out, but there is a definite portion of the fan base who would get on board with Nebraska wearing purple uniforms with neon orange helmets if Tom Osborne gave it his blessing.  Osborne is perceived to be stodgy, stoic, and quite conservative.  Most fans believe he has the program’s best interests at heart, so if he can get on board with it, you and I probably should too.

And I also understand all of the reasons why Nebraska shouldn’t change things up:

  • The uniforms are one of the last pieces of the storied NU tradition still intact.  Much has been made of destruction of Nebraska football’s culture and tradition, mostly under the control of Steve Pedersen and Bill Callahan (although, remember:  one of Pedersen’s very first acts as Nebraska A.D. was to get rid of the hideous 2002 uniforms).  Fans and alumni feel like the erosion of the many things that have made Nebraska unique and special signals the end of a storied era, and a true gravitation towards mediocrity.
  • Old School is OK.  While Oregon and some of the other futuristically-clad teams occasionally will trot out something cool, for the most part they look silly.  Nebraska’s iconic white helmet with the simple, sans-serif “N” may be plain and boring to some, but it is a known and respected brand.  I personally think the best looking teams in college football are the ones with simple, traditional uniforms:  Alabama, Penn State, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Texas, etc.
  • Black is not a school color, it is a defensive color.  I don’t know if Jason Peter has said this or not, but I think it sounds like something he’d say:  There is something inherently wrong with an offensive player or 4th string defender getting to wear a black Nebraska jersey.  The Blackshirts are one of the sacred traditions, and letting the whole team wear it cheapens the meaning.
  • Bad history.  Nebraska traditionally does poorly in monochromatic games.  By my count*, Nebraska is 2-10 (17%) wearing all one color.  Toss in the 1962 throwbacks worn for the 300th sellout in 2009, and Nebraska still only wins 23% of their games when they deviate heavily from the norm.

* The games where Nebraska has worn a uniform combination other than red jersey/white pants (home) or white jersey/red pants (away) – from my very brief, Wiki-based research:

  • 1986:  Oklahoma 20, Nebraska 17.  Red pants, red jerseys
  • 1991:  Georgia Tech 45, Nebraska 21 (Citrus Bowl).  White pants, white jerseys
  • 1992:  Washington 29, Nebraska 14.  White pants, white jerseys
  • 1992:  Nebraska 34, Missouri 24. White pants, white jerseys
  • 1992:  Iowa State 19, Nebraska 10.  White pants, white jerseys
  • 2002:  Penn State 40, Nebraska 7.  White pants, white jerseys
  • 2002:  Iowa State 36, Nebraska 14.  White pants, white jerseys
  • 2002:  Oklahoma State 24, Nebraska 21.  White pants, white jerseys
  • 2002:  Nebraska 38, Texas A&M 31. White pants, white jerseys
  • 2002:  Kansas State 49, Nebraska 13.  White pants, white jerseys
  • 2002:  Mississippi 27, Nebraska 23 (Independence Bowl).  White pants, white jerseys
  • 2007:  Colorado 65, Nebraska 51.  White pants, white jerseys

Bottom line – I’m passively* against it.  While I wish Nebraska would stick to their traditional and iconic look, I knew this day would come.  There are just too many potential perks for the program (namely – money and recruiting) to pass up.  I do think the Nebraska brand is cheapened by getting on the alternative uniform bandwagon, although whether this is a bigger hit than any of the other culture shocks the program has endured in the last decade is a whole other conversation.

*Yeah, the blog post may not qualify as “passive”, but I’m not lighting up message boards or talk radio shows with my discontent, am I?

I would be perfectly happy if Nebraska uniforms never changed.  If that makes me an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy, then so be it.  I guess the thing that scares me the most is that these futuristic uniforms will be stupid, ugly – or both – and Nebraska would be better served to just wear the same red jersey, white pants, white helmet look they’ve worn for decades.

%d bloggers like this: